$148.9M is 3rd-largest Lottie Moon offering
RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--Southern Baptists stayed true to their passion for telling the world about Jesus in spite of a weakened economy and sluggish recovery, giving $148.9 million to support international missionaries through the 2009 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. It is the third-largest Lottie Moon offering in history.
"We are not disappointed as God proves His faithfulness through Southern Baptists, and giving through Lottie Moon reflects the heart of our churches and their Great Commission commitment," said Jerry Rankin, International Mission Board president. "Constituting more than half of the IMB's annual budget, the Lottie Moon offering dramatically impacts our ability to take the Gospel to the lost world.
"I am deeply grateful for the increase in giving, some $7.6 million above the 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and for the sacrifice made by Southern Baptists during these difficult economic times."
More than $4 million of the $7.6 million increase came from a special "over and above" offering challenge issued last summer by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin and others. The extra funds allowed the IMB to send missionaries placed on hold by financial shortfalls earlier than planned and prevented even deeper reductions in the IMB's global missionary force.
Because of Southern Baptist support, missionaries and their national partners were responsible for baptizing more than 506,000 believers and starting 24,650 new churches across the globe in 2008.
"For this year's total to be the third-highest in the history of the offering is remarkable given the economic challenges that continue to impact many across the U.S.," said Wanda Lee, Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) executive director/treasurer. "It is truly a testimony to the faithfulness of God and the deep-rooted commitment among Southern Baptists to share Jesus with those around the world who have yet to hear of His love. We are grateful for WMU leaders and members who champion the missions cause in their churches through personal involvement and by urging Southern Baptists to give sacrificially and pray fervently for missions."
While the $148.9 million offering meets the requirements for the IMB's 2010 operating budget, it doesn't allow room for growth or reversal of budget cuts.
"This generous offering will allow us to meet our operational needs but most of our capital needs will be postponed for another year," said IMB financial chief David Steverson. "With our other major sources of income holding steady or only slightly declining, we are grateful that, for now, we don't anticipate further reductions in our missionary force below 5,000."
Last year IMB trustees were forced to curb appointments of new missionaries and suspend two short-term missionary programs entirely, initiating a gradual reduction in the IMB's global missionary force. The reduction will lower missionary numbers from approximately 5,600, reached in 2009, to 5,000 but will not involve recalling any personnel because it will be accomplished through natural attrition -- completions of service, retirements and resignations.
"We are grieved that budget limitations will force us to continue to restrict new missionaries being appointed," Rankin said. "This is not just a disappointment to individuals and families called of God to serve overseas, but it means many unreached people groups will be deprived of hearing the Gospel yet another year. We are rethinking our strategy and adjusting our organizational structure for greater efficiency in order to stretch our budget as far as possible."
Seventy-one percent of the IMB's budget is spent on missionary support, including housing, salaries, medical care and children's education. It averages $43,800 annually per missionary.
Though the $148.9 million offering is $7.6 million above 2008 giving, it is $1.4 million below the 2007 record offering of $150.4 million. It is also $26 million short of the 2009 goal of $175 million.
Don Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board. To learn more about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, go to imb.org/offering.